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KOR/KOREA 

This will be the ninth Olympic appearance for Korea who boast a squad of petite but fast and forceful players. The best of the girls’ eight most recent performances was a bronze medal finish at the Montreal Olympics in 1976. Other medals won, all bronzes, are two in the World Championships (1967, 1974) and two in the World Cup (1973, 1977). But following a sixth place finish at the 2002 World Championship in Germany the Korean national women’s Volleyball team underwent a massive shake up in their ranks with a concentration on youth for 2003 and the benefits were seen immediately with an impressive performance at the World Grand Prix tournament.

Their sixth place finish was encouraging, despite failing to win a match in the Final Round. It was in pool play where they showed some exciting potential, topping Pool B with four wins from five, including defeats over Russia and Brazil, with their only loss against eventual winners China. They continued more of that exciting form when they finished third at the Asian Continental Championship to claim a World Cup qualifying spot with China due to World Cup hosts Japan finishing second.

Speed and fighting spirit are the traditionally qualities of Korea and although their much taller opponents take a psychological advantage into each match due to Korea’s lack of height (their tallest player by 5 cm being Se-Young Kim at 190 cm), it’s a spirited defense and a special determination which sees Korea compete at the highest level.

Although Korea, currently ranked eighth in the world, has scaled the heights of a bronze medal in Montreal, their more recent results have tended to wane, especially at the 2003 World Cup where they finished ninth.

Coach Kim Cheol-Yong and playmakers such as Sa-Nee Kim and their most experienced player with over 200 caps Kwang- Hee Choi (the best scorer at the Asian Continental Championship) will be looked upon to lead Korea through the initial stages of the Olympic Games. Setter Sa-Nee has been inspirational in the past providing quality sets while Kwang-Hee is Korea’s most potent weapon on attack.

Life will be tough for Korea but they have the history and pedigree to be a force in the Olympic Games.